Every so often, the media reports about a major data breach that has affected thousands, millions and sometimes even billions of individuals. None have been quite as alarming as the recent revelation that all 3 billion users were hacked when Yahoo was breached back in 2013. What’s worse, this information took years to come to light. While it is mainly big corporations and entities that get into the news, the truth is that small businesses are much more vulnerable and are breached by hackers on an even grander scale.

Within the first quarter of 2017, there were 1,254 reported breaches, and potentially thousands more unreported as many businesses often don’t realize that they have been hacked.

The majority of SMBs that suffer a data breach are vulnerable simply because they don’t have the proper security protocols and protections in place. This is often because small business owners don’t want to allocate funds to data protection or don’t feel that their businesses will ever be a target, but that is exactly what hackers count on. Nearly 90 percent of data breaches could be prevented if proper security procedures and software were utilized.

Every business, in every industry, has some sort of sensitive data on its computers, and subsequently, a responsibility to keep that data secure. Whether it is consumers’ credit card numbers, patient medical records, sensitive company financials and secrets, or employee social security numbers, data could fall into the wrong hands if it is not properly protected. Dedicating your company resources toward data protection, including records and information management, not only serves to make your company more efficient but also advances your ability to secure your information.

Where Do Data Breaches Come From?

When you hear the word “hacker” you probably immediately think of some individual hiding in a dark room somewhere, surrounded by computers and technical equipment. While this is one possible scenario, data breaches can occur from a wide range of sources. In fact, external intrusions by hackers only account for about 40 percent of data breaches.

Many data breaches occur from within an organization by employees who are able to successfully gain access to data they shouldn’t be allowed to see. Other times, a misplaced or stolen laptop or mobile device can give a tech-savvy individual access to sensitive data and possibly even a business’s network. You need to know how to protect yourself from all these threats.

Following is a set of guidelines you should follow to provide the best security for the data and information on your systems.

1. Install Cloud-Based Virus Protection Software

It seems like common sense, yet many small businesses fail to install, or fail to keep up to date, their security software. But this can be the first and most important line of defense against hackers who often use a type of virus known as malware or spyware to infect a computer system and gain unauthorized access or steal usernames and passwords.

Hackers continually strive to exploit security holes in older versions of virus protection software and older software in general that, if not updated, leave your information at risk. Antivirus software must always be kept up-to-date in order to counter the newest cybersecurity attacks and recently revealed vulnerabilities.

Cloud-based applications update automatically, ensuring that virus protection software is always ready to stop the latest malware. Also, investing in and installing a system firewall adds another strong layer of security that often defeats the efforts of hackers.

2. Develop a Security Plan and Stick to It

Your small business must have a security plan and acceptable use policy, and you need to ensure all employees within your organization are aware of it. Important plan items should include:

  • Teaching your employees the importance of not downloading files from unknown sources or visiting untrusted websites.
  • Instructing your employees with access to sensitive information not to share passwords with any unauthorized personnel.
  • Keeping your employees’ computers, laptops and mobile devices secure with password protection and file encryption.
  • Changing passwords and restricting access to users no longer with the company.
  • Implementing clear and consistent records retention and destruction schedules to ensure documents are properly discarded at the end of their lifecycle to reduce the risk of exposure.
  • Enforcing an information governance policy that addresses all document types from their creation through destruction.

Remember, it only takes one careless individual to compromise the whole system, so continuous education regarding data security benefits individuals and your organization alike. An employee’s actions, such as accidentally leaving a laptop unattended in a crowded coffee shop or an unlocked vehicle, can be the cause of a serious data breach.

Of course, data breaches can also occur due to the carelessness or inexperience of a third party vendor. It’s critical to thoroughly vet and hold all third parties that have access to company information accountable to your security standards as well.

3. Plan for Consistent Management and Maintenance

Developing an effective maintenance plan around records and information management helps to limit vulnerabilities and significantly reduce the risk of a major data breach. Securing your files offsite, and working with providers who can provide secure cloud storage as well as management and delivery of sensitive information is just as critical as backing up data, updating system software and assigning someone to perform risk assessments. An automated backup system saves you time and ensures that no data is lost in the event of a ransomware or malware attack, breach or system failure.

It may be a good idea to partner with a RIM provider that can offer your small business the management and security you need. Whether that means moving sensitive physical files to more secure off-site storage or web-based software that can help you manage that information, control permissions and data access, and stay compliant with fast-changing regulations, small businesses can reduce excess costs, increase their process efficiencies and better protect their information. Outsourcing enables you to focus on more strategic tasks while ensuring that data security is not left by the wayside. However, employee education regarding data security and what they can do to mitigate risks must always be performed; without proper education, your data can still be highly at risk.

With a powerful digital document management solution like FileBRIDGE®, SMBs can automate document retention schedules, establish secure access controls and ensure compliance with data security regulations. Learn how FileBRIDGE from Access combines time-consuming RIM processes and information governance to help keep your small business protected.